Church

What’s the Go With Lent?

 

Once again Lent is upon us. I realise that many people in the Church today don’t observe Lent and perhaps don’t even know what it is about. So in this post I am answering the questions:
1. What is Lent and why observe it?
2. How does one observe Lent?
3. Should I observe Lent?

1. What is Lent and why observe it? – Lent is a 40 day period leading up to Easter that focuses on three things, (i) Self Examination; (ii) Prayer; (iii) Repentance.
Historically, Christians who have observed Lent view this 40 day period with the mindset that says “I am going to go into battle against sin in my life”. Now I realise that when many Christians who are from non-traditional Anglican churches (or non-liturgical church) hear this they understandably ask the question: “Why set aside 40 days for Self Examination; Prayer; and Repentance when these are things that Christians should be focusing on all year round?

The reason why I observe Lent and look forward to Lent is that although it is absolutely true that Self Examination; Prayer; and Repentance are things that Christians should be focusing on all year round, they are not always done consistently by me all year round, due to tiredness, laziness, and due to plain old fashioned pride.

I find Lent very helpful in that it provides me a platform and the opportunity to be more deliberate and intentional when it comes to self examination, prayer and repentance. And although Scripture is silent when it comes to Lent, it is certainly not silent when it comes to these three things.

2. How does one observe Lent? – Christians that I know whom observe Lent often give up things in order to be more focussed on repentance. I know one bloke who told me that he gave up Chocolate for Lent. My view is that it is only worth giving things up that serve to hinder your repentance and your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, thus giving up Chocolate is only worth giving up if it is causing you to sin! Lent is a good time to pray, asking God our Father to show us those sins that we are not dealing with, or those habitual sins that keep revisiting us and discourage us. Use Lent to give these up, during Lent a good move may be to acquire an accountability partner; a godly Christian whom you trust who can ask you how you are going during the next 40 days, someone who will pray for you specifically during those 40 days. And when Lent finishes continue to not sin in the area that God has convicted you about.

Lent is also a time to start something that you should be doing that you are not doing. For example in a previous parish where I served some years ago there was not a strong culture of mid week Bible Study groups, so I encourage the congregation to give up something for Lent that they are currently not doing – “give up not reading the Bible, give up not praying”. So I started a Lenten Bible Study Group. What was great about this is that people who normally didn’t study the Bible came to the group and when Lent finished at Easter, after Easter the Lenten Bible study group continued.

3. Should I observe Lent? I think that Lent is a one of those things that in itself is neither right nor wrong. As I said earlier, Scripture is silent in regards to Lent, so God’s people are free to observe it or not observe it. But I would only say this to you:
If you are struggling with a persistent sin in your life, a habitual sin, a sin that you think you have conquered that keeps returning, if you are struggling with praying and reading the Bible consistently, why not give Lent a crack? You just may find that Lent and the emphasis that it brings is just what you have been needing.

So it is my prayer that if you decide to observe Lent that it will be a wonderful special time of blessing for you, that God will use these 40 days to mould and shape you more and more into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Blessings
Joshua
p.s Here is a great Lenten Study Book, ‘Shadows of the Cross’.

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Fudging Anglican Unity

Today I encountered an article that was rather concerning. It was written by Dr. Winfield Bevins, and posted on Anglican Pastor entitled, “Whatever happened to the Anglican Via Media?”.  It is in essence it is a plea for Anglican unity.  The article I found to be concerning in that:

1. The definition of the Via Media offered in this piece is theologically inaccurate. The Anglican Church is Protestant and Reformed, as evidenced by the theology of the BCP, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles. The definition of Via Media being between Rome and Canterbury was coined by the Tractarians (who were trying to justify their attempt reshaping Anglicanism into the image of Roman Catholicism.)

2. The Promotion of a theologically ‘multi-streamed’ Anglicanism.  One would be at great pains to see how the BCP, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles endorse the notion that one can be theologically Evangelical; or theologically Liberal, or theologically Anglo-Catholic or theologically Charismatic and all four can claim to be authentically Anglican

3. The Promotion of false unity – The unity promoted by Bevins is not true unity, it is organisational unity that stresses unity based on the least common denominator, the term ‘Anglican’ (whatever you hold that to be), i.e. the thing that we can all agree on, which is “We are all Anglicans”.

It reminds of how some years ago the Archbishop of Canterbury in a conversation with the Church Of Ireland Gazette, stated he saw the Anglican Church in North America as being (in his words):“a fellow member of the church of Christ in the world,” but added the “ACNA is a separate church. It is not part of the Anglican Communion.” His comments are indicative of the thinking that defines being an Anglican organisationally and institutionally rather than theologically.

This article has done the same thing. Instead of the basis of unity being the Scriptures, the BCP, the ordinal the 39 Articles and the creeds, the basis is now something else entirely, a new focal point of unity and what that something else is, is labelled ‘Anglican.

For example Bevins states:

Regardless of which camp you are in, Anglicans are united in the essential “catholic” doctrines of the Christian faith. 

I would stop him and there say, “Yes and the essential ‘catholic’ doctrines are those expressed in the BCP, the Ordinal, and the BCP, which are Protestant and Reformed”

However further on writes:

The Catholic, Evangelical, Broad, and Charismatic divide is just the beginning of the diversity within Anglicanism.

This leads me to ask the question, why would the ABC, Benfields or any Anglican define being Anglican in such a way that it leads to the Scriptures, the BCP, the 39 Articles and the creeds being bypassed?

Sadly I suspect the reason is one of avoidance.

Shifting the focal point of Anglican Unity from the BCP, the Ordinal, the 39 Articles and the Creeds will:

  • Avoid accountability. It will ensure that no-one within the Anglican Church will have their theology and praxis critiqued in light of Scripture, the BCP, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles. It means that those within the Anglican Communion whose theology and praxis is aberrant will not be accountable.
  • Avoid offending people; particularly Bishops, Priests, Deacons and to some extend laity within the Anglican Communion whose theology and praxis are dissonant from the Scriptures, the BCP and the 39 Articles.
  • Avoid having to actually deal with the white elephant in the room – that within the Anglican Communion we have very different belief systems in operation, with incompatible views of what the Gospel is; the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and regarding the authority of the Scriptures.

So if an Anglican church has a priest who believes that the Holy Spirit is a woman, whose Bishop that declares Jesus death was not propitiatory, an Archdeacon who believes Jesus resurrection was not physical, the Rector’s Warden who believes that there is no need for repentance, the Vestry who believe that all are saved and one can live how they like as long as they are faithful to their own spiritual journey (however they define their journey); the Assistant Curate who believes that the Scriptures are not the Word of God written; the postulant who thinks that the 39 Articles are really just the 39 Artifacts; none of this matters. ‘Anglicans’ can continue to thumb their nose at the Scriptures, the BCP, the Ordinal, the Creeds, and in good conscience say they are a true Anglicans and are all united as Anglicans because “this is just the beginning of the diversity within Anglicanism”.

This diversity is in reality one big fudge, for the only way it will be maintained is by no-one saying anything about anything or by saying that everyone is correct, which sadly is what this article is saying.

The Principal of Sydney’s Moore Theological College, the Rev Dr Mark Thompson wrote:

The Anglican Church has always been confessional in nature, as witnessed by the history of subscription to the Articles, which began in the time of Cranmer and continues around the world today.

Long may this continue!

As Andrew Brashier says in his very good response to Bevins entitled Holding the Centre, or Moving Goalposts:

As to teachings that go beyond the boundaries of our common center we must state in unison, thus far and no further.

Could not say it better myself.

The End Of End Times?

 

Recently I have been listening to a series of Advent talks by Bishop Julian Dobbs and in the beginning of his first talk he says:

In the Anglican Communion service there is what is known as the Acclamation where we say “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” – but it is the third acclamation that we are the most perplexed – can there be a solid basis for our hope that Christ will come again? When will it be? The Apostles of the NT appeared to expect the return of Christ to be imminent. And yet if you look in the Book of Common Prayer you will see that there is “characteristic Anglican caution”, there is a table that enables us to calculate the Day of Easter until well after the year 8000 (8500AD to be exact).

What will this return be like? Through our heads run the confusing vocabularies of ‘eschatology’ (doctrine pertaining to the last things or last days); words such as Millenium, Rapture, Armageddon, the Anti-Christ; and sometimes if we are honest it seems so unclear, so unimaginable, perhaps even unlikely (mention to a non-Christian that you live your life in the confident expectation that Jesus Christ will return again a second time to planet earth and you are likely to met with a look of bemused amazement!).

Yet it is impossible to read the NT and not see it filled with the hope of Christ’ return. One verse in every twenty-five in the NT touches on the return of Jesus. Over three hundred references, and two hundred and sixty chapters Jesus spoke of his return. The Apostle Paul called it our “blessed hope”; Peter described his return as our “living hope”, and running unmistakably through the Bible is the unshakeable conviction and insistence that the God who is working in history, (who has already established his rule in Jesus Christ) will one day bring history to a climax in the Son of Man’s coming in glory. One cannot read the NT and be in any doubt about that at all!”

And yet it seems that in my context (which is an Australian Evangelical Anglican one), discussion about Eschatology, or end times seems to have…well…ended.

For example I suspect that if I ask Christians in my context about their view of the Millennium, the response I will get is one either an expression of puzzlement and/or a comment along the lines of “I have never really thought about it that much to be honest”. I suspect that if I ask the question about Revelation 20:1-6 regarding the Millennial reign of Christ, the response I will receive is “I am a pan-millennial” – which means “It will all pan out in the end”. In other words:

Jesus is coming back and that is enough for me, so why worry about the details?

Recently I have been thinking more  and praying more and more about the second Advent of the Lord Jesus. I don’t know why, perhaps it could be now that I am middle-aged (43), or perhaps it is due to the increasing ungodliness and hostility towards the Faith from our culture. Whatever the reason is, I have been reading through Revelation and Revelation 20.

Historically there have been three main positions in regards to Revelation 20. Here is a very brief description of each:

Amillennialism

  • Very popular in the 5-16th Centuries
  • Believe that the return of Christ will not inaugurate his reign on earth, but will inaugurate his judgment and the beginning of the eternal age, Heaven and Hell will be ushered in.
  • Christians who hold this view say that the passage in Rev 20 is symbolic rather than literal.
  • Christians who hold this view do not believe that Christ will reign on the earth for a thousand years.

Postmillennialism

  • Christianity will become so wide spread that it will bring about a period that will represent the millennial reign of Christ.
  • Jesus won’t be present, but Jesus and his church are reigning now spiritually.
  • That for a thousand years the church will take over the world and rule the world in the name of Christ before he returns.
  • If a person holds to this position they would have to believe that the return of Christ is at least a thousand years away from today, as it is clear that the church is not even close to having governance over this world.

Classical Premillennialism (not to be confused with Dispensational Premill – which is very different)

  • Believes that Revelation 20 is literal not symbolic
  • Jesus will come to earth (his 2nd Advent)
  • Christians will be gathered to meet him (those who are alive and Christians will be raised with Christ)
  • Christ will reign upon the earth for 1000 years (some who hold to the classic Premill position believe the 1000 years could mean an extended length of time)
  • Then the unrighteous people will be raised
  • The world will be judged
  • The New Heavens and the new earth are implemented

The point of this article is not to explain in detail my position – (though for those who want to know, I was a former A-mill who is now tentatively and newly in the Classical Pre-mill camp) but is an appeal to clergy and laity alike to not avoid the book of Revelation, Revelation 20, and not to avoid eschatology.

I believe it is very  important that we reach some conclusion due to the fact that whatever view we conclude is supported by the Scriptures regarding the end times (including the  millennial reign of Christ on the earth), that will have a profound effect on our attitude to this world today, our responsibility for it and evangelism.

To finish here is a quote from one of my spiritual heroes – Bishop J. C. Ryle [1816-1900], Anglican Bishop, pastor, and scholar (whom recently I discovered was an ‘historic premillennialist’). In a work entitled, Coming Events and Present Duties, he wrote of his premillennial belief:

“I believe that the world will never be completely converted to Christianity, by any existing agency, before the end comes. In spite of all that can be done by ministers, members, and churches, the wheat and tares will grow together until the Harvest; and when the end comes, it will find the earth in much the same state that it was when the flood came in the days of Noah. I believe that the widespread unbelief, indifference, formalism, and wickedness, which are to be seen throughout Christendom, are only what we are taught to expect in God’s word. Troublous times, departures from the faith, evil men waxing worse and worse, love waxing cold, are things directly predicted. So far from making me doubt the truth of Christianity, they help to confirm my faith. Melancholy and sorrowful as the sight is, if I did not see it I should think the Bible was not true. I believe that the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will be a real, literal, personal, bodily coming; that as He went away in the clouds of heaven with His body, before the eyes of man, so in like manner, will He return. I believe that, after our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, the earth shall be renewed, and the curse removed; the devil shall be bound, the godly shall be rewarded, the wicked shall be punished; and that, before He comes, there shall be neither resurrection, judgment, no Millennium; and that not till after He comes shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. I believe that the Jews shall be ultimately gathered again, as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and converted to the faith of Christ. I believe, finally, that it is for the safety, happiness, and comfort, of all true believers to expect as little as possible from churches, or governments, under the present dispensation, to hold themselves ready for tremendous conversions and changes of all things established, and to expect their good things only from Christ’s Second Advent.”

So what ever one’s view, let’s end the end of thinking about the End Times.